Competing Ways Towards International Antitrust: the WTO versus the ICN
In times of globalization, trade liberalization and deregulation of specific industries, competition authorities face new challenges in order to protect national as well as international competition. With companies operating in various countries, fading market frontiers and increasing crossborder trade, new strategies must be developed in order to overcome threats to domestic markets resulting of anticompetitive behavior abroad. Even though solutions such as the “Effects Doctrine” or bilateral agreements allow – albeit imperfectly – countries to protect their domestic market, there are no laws safeguarding the global economy and international competition. Thus, the request arises to establish an international competition policy regime in order to harmonize countries’ competition laws, to reduce conflicts due to cross-border anti-competitive behavior and to support developing countries in reaching Western standards. Among several approaches, two are of significant interest: On the one hand, the World Trade Organization (WTO) could be enhanced by a board of supervision for international competition issues including a harmonized competition code for all, while on the other hand the International Competition Network (ICN) has been established to take care of global competition concerns through policy coordination [Graham 2003; Janow 2003; Budzinski 2004b]. This paper discusses whether the institutional WTO or the voluntary ICN approach represents the better path to an international competition policy regime to control private anticompetitive activities. The second part will explain the importance of an international competition policy. Subsequently, unilateral, bilateral and multilateral approaches to the prevention and solution of problems in global competition are introduced. Section 3.1 gives a short overview of the WTO’s characteristics, its structural organization and its plans to integrate an international competition policy. The organization and the framework of the ICN as well as its attempts to prevent international anticompetitive behavior is explored in section 3.2. Based on the statements made in section 2 and the facts presented in section 3, the fourth section compares the WTO approach with the ICN qualities. The discussion will be divided into the following six criteria: (i) feasibility, (ii) acceptability, (iii) efficiency, (iv) negotiation and implementation of international competition rules, (v) conflict resolution and (vi) adaptability. Conclusions follow in section 5.
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